Schools across the United States over the weekend announced last-minute closures because of the spread of COVID-19.
Students in a number of districts were slated to return to class on Jan. 3 from winter break. Some districts blamed the closures on staffing issues or the rise in cases driven by the Omicron variant.
In Massachusetts, more than a dozen school districts were closed or had a delayed opening on Jan. 3, with some officials citing the spread of COVID-19 and others because of snowfall. Meanwhile, the Pittsburgh Public Schools announced that the district is shuttering 12 schools due to staffing shortages caused by COVID-19, WXPI reported.
An infectious disease expert who was interviewed by the local station said that it’s “inevitable that we’re going to see cases in the school,” but stipulated that closures “can’t be tolerated.”
“We have rapid tests, we’ve got antivirals, we have vaccines, we have monoclonal antibodies, and we have best practices that occurred in the pre-pandemic era, so there really is no excuse for schools to be going virtual at this point, in 2022, in the pandemic,” Dr. Amesh Adalja said in response to the closures on Jan. 3.
Several Connecticut school districts also are closing due to COVID-19 cases and staffing shortages, local media reported. Transportation problems due to staffing shortfalls also were cited by officials as a reason for the closures. Districts including Region 14, Enfield, Stratford, and Stonington public schools remained closed after the holiday break, reports stated.
Milwaukee Public Schools will start a virtual learning program on Jan. 4 amid school closures. However, the system aims to restart normal classes on Jan. 10.
“MPS was scheduled to resume in-person learning on January 4, 2022, but due to an influx of reported positive COVID-19 cases among district staff, this emergency safety measure is being implemented,” Milwaukee Public Schools officials said in an announcement.
And the school district of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, shut down classes for students on Jan. 3 due to COVID-19-related issues, although teachers and other staff members had to return to work, WGAL-TV reported.
The district stated that it expects to bring students back to class starting on Jan. 4.
In New Jersey, some Jersey Shore schools cited surging COVID-19 cases in combination with a snowstorm that has dumped several inches of snow across the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast for closing down on Jan. 3.
While most of the nation’s largest school districts, including New York City and Los Angeles, have decided to remain open, it’s possible that one of the largest districts in the United States—Chicago Public Schools—may revert to distance learning in the coming days amid demands from the Chicago Teachers Union.
“Our union proposes Mayor [Lori] Lightfoot and her CPS team must put mitigations in place—including COVID-19 testing—by Jan. 3 to ensure safety as classes resume,” Chicago Teachers Union Local 1 said in a statement last week. “If mitigations are not in place, in-person learning must be paused so the district can implement proper safety measures.”
Public and private schools in Los Angeles County have to mandate wearing masks outside in crowded spaces, and teachers and other staff are required to wear high-grade masks when returning to class after the winter break, according to a Jan. 2 announcement from the Los Angeles Health Department.